With For About: Art & Democracy – an illustrated round up!

Last month (on European Parliament election day), artists, practitioners, educators, researchers and arts producers from across Europe and the USA, joined us at Ravenhead Social Club (the last Pilkington Social Club) in St Helens for our fourth annual With For About conference: Art & Democracy.

If you joined us, thank you for being part of a very special day. As one attendee reflected “It made me think about what we do and why”, while another told us “it felt like we were creating a vision for humanity”!

Here’s a short film (made by our partners and friends Axisweb) with interviews from some of our speakers and attendees. We were also very lucky to have Lancashire based illustrator Emmeline Pidgen live documenting the event. Here’s an illustrated round up of the sessions with thoughts from writer and attendee Natalie Hughes….

Session 1: Artist as Political Actor

Chair: Ailbhe Murphy

Contributors: Jonas Staal, Larry Achiampong, and Heather Peak Morison.

Jonas Staal stood before a hundred people to deliver a speech about the future of democracy. Explaining how he assisted in creating a model parliament for Rojava, part of the Kurdistani autonomous region of Syria, Staal said that within art were the mechanisms of emancipatory politics. Following on from Jonas, Larry Achiampong, delivered a powerful presentation that asked us to consider the effects of what we produce: ‘You don’t just get to make stuff and then walk away!’ he said. Achiampong explained that the artist has the privilege of being able to ‘move between spaces and situations without being labelled as ‘crazy’’.

Session 2: Art & Disability Justice

Chair: Dr Janet Price

Contributors: Gemma Nash and Lani Parker

“The disability rights activist Lani Parker called for us to dismantle power structures by building ‘real solidarity across hierarchies’ – and to actually mean it rather than spouting its rhetoric for performance only. Parker reminded us of art’s responsibility to recognise and give up power rather than create a system of consumption, and the importance of asking ‘who is the art for?’, ‘what is the political reaction you want?, ‘who gets the recognition?’.”

Session 3: Public Realm – Erosion of the Public Sphere

Chair: Susanne Bosch

Contributors: Prerana Reddy (A Blade of Grass), Brian Harnetty, Rick Lowe,  Jeanne van Heeswijk, Deidre Figuerido and Amy Twigger Holroyd.

“Splitting up into six groups we were led through activities in listening and discussion by either Rick Lowe, Jeanne van Heeswijk, Brian Harnetty, Prerana Reddy, Amy Twigger-Holroyd, or Deirdre Figueiredo. In these smaller gatherings we examined the erosion of our public sphere, the effects of this, and how to turn this around.”

 “I followed Jeanne van Heeswijk out onto the social club’s playing field to sit in the sunshine and discuss the question: ‘What does it mean to become a collective at the end of time?’. The answer: we must engage within the social practice of ‘Commoning’: i) act, ii) take care of one another, iii) recognise that we are together, iv) cultivate a shared understanding that fosters collective ownership.”

A Royal Wrap Party: Photo Gallery

On Thursday 13th December we celebrated a fantastic 150th anniversary year for St Helens with A Royal Wrap Party hosted by our Party Political Artists in Residence, Eggs Collective, and their friends at The Citadel theatre.

What an evening it was! There were sing-a-longs, there were drum-a-longs and there were lots of laughs as a variety of acts took to the stage.

Here’s a round up of the evening, complete with photos!

Léonie and Lowri of Eggs Collective present the first act.
The night was compered by Léonie and Lowri of Eggs Collective. 


Kitty O'Shea dressed in head to toe pink stands in front of a banner reading A Royal Wrap Party
The first act on stage was St Helens very own Kitty O’Shea who shared her royal research at St Helens Archives with us to the sound of tunes from DJ MrsBaxter2U.


Kitty O'Shea sings to the audience.
Kitty O’Shea gives us a rendition of Barbara Streisand’s ‘Papa, Can You Hear Me?’  


Leonie and Lowri from Eggs Collective lead the audience in a sing-a-long.
Eggs Collective lead us in a sing-a-long of a song written by residents of Parr Mount Court earlier this year. 


Three male members of a drum troupe play the drums in front of a banner reading A Right Royal Wrap Party
Drum troupe Luma Creations return to St Helens. 


Two members of the audience join Luma Creations on the stage to play the drums.
Luma Creations invite audience members to join them on stage, including our very own Suzanne!


Members of the audience make brightly coloured crowns with Sam of Might Heart Theatre.
Did you make a crown with Sam from Might Heart Theatre? Who did you choose as your queen? Or perhaps you chose a cat?  


A crown made of tinsel, cardboard and baubles featuring an image of Joan of Arc.
A crown featuring Joan of Arc.


Artist Amy Pennington shows a dart board attached to her chest.
Artist Amy Pennington introduces the audience to the game of ‘bargain bully’ – did you dare to throw darts at Amy?! 


Kitty O' Shea throws a magnetic dart towards the dart board on Amy Pennington's chest
Kitty O’Shea takes part in ‘bargain bully’ to win a Barbara Streisand record, and wins!  
Comedian Stephen Bailey performs his comedy set wearing a pink suit.
The final act of the night was comedian and TV star, Stephen Bailey.

Invaders of the Lost Park, an animation by St Helens community groups and Twin Vision

On 8th December 2018, as part of the We Are Still Here: St Helens 150 Finale there was a very special premiere in St Helens Town Hall and it took place within a space-age tent!

Invaders of the Lost Park is a stop-frame animation that was created by the following St Helens community groups in collaboration with the multi-media charity, Twin Vision during a series of workshops as part of the We Are Still Here project:

Knit and Knatter, Newton Le Willows; Lansbury Bridge School; Your Voice, Your Choice, Knowsley; Autism and Friendship Group, St Helens; Knowsley Disability Concern, KDC; Citadel AHSC; Change Grow Live, CGL St Helens; Mill Green School; Activate Knowsley; BuzzHub St Helens Coalition of Disabled People and The Autism and Asperger Society, St Helens. 

The animation tells the story of a child called Lansbury who reimagines their town with amazing results! You can watch the animation in full below, we hope you enjoy!

Watch on Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/307011448

Book Now: Social-Realist Films (Take Over Festival)

Over the next couple of months, as part of Take Over Festival, St Helens Libraries will be showing a trio of rarely seen social-realist films at Chester Lane Library, St Helens. Read more about the 3 films and find times and dates below.

BOOK your tickets here or in any library in St Helens. Season ticket available for all 3 films. 


Thursday 20th September 2018, 7pm. 

A documentary film about the campaign to unionise the women who cleaned office blocks at night and who were being victimised and underpaid by their employers. A key work of the 1970s, this intensely self-reflexive film implicates both the filmmakers and the audience in the processes of precarious, invisible labour.

Berwick Street Film Collective: Humphry Trevelyan, Mary Kelly, James Scott, Marc Karlin and LUX, London. UK, 1972-75. 90 min.

Bata-ville: We are not afraid of the future (with an introduction from Karen Guthrie)

Thursday 4th October 2018, 7pm.

Bata-ville: We are not afraid of the future, is a bittersweet record of an English coach trip to the origins of the Bata shoe empire – the Moravian town of Zlin. Former employees of two now closed UK Bata factories are led by Pope & Guthrie on a unique journey through Bata’s legacy. Watch the trailer here.

A Somewhere Film written & directed by Karen Guthrie & Nina Pope. 93 min. PG

The Rank and File

Thursday 18th October 2018, 7pm.

Based on the Pilkington Glass strike that took place in St. Helens in 1970, Loach uses a documentary approach to cover a wildcat strike among rank and file union members antagonised by a too-cosy relationship between the board and union executive that had resulted in the gradual erosion of pay and conditions.

Director Kenneth Loach. Producer Graeme McDonald. Script Jim Allen. 1971. 71 min. PG

BOOK your tickets here or in any library in St Helens.

Take Over Festival (#takeoversthelens) is a partnership between Heart of Glass and St Helens Libraries that sees six weeks of art, culture and pop-up performances ignite the streets and the spaces of St Helens. No location is off limits as artists are invited to showcase new and engaging work in libraries, shops, labour clubs and public spaces. St Helens 150’s edition of the festival examines the idea of identity. In a world where the only constant thing is change, what does that mean to our sense of self?

For more information on the programme including appearances from St Helens ‘son’ Frank Cottrell Boyce and actress Maxine Peake and a performance of the award-winning salt. by Selina Thompson visit: www.heartofglass.org.uk to find out more and book tickets. 


Heart of Glass hosts the fifth Staging Post of the Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme (CAPP), an ambitious transnational cultural programme focusing on the dynamic area of collaborative arts across Europe.  

We are doing this by hosting a special edition of our With For About conference series.  

With For About aims to create a space to discuss and reflect on the fierce and urgent questions facing collaborative and social art today, and more broadly reflect on the role of art and artists in civil society, and the nature and potential of collaborative art with and within community and social contexts.

This April we invite you to join us for Making A Meal Of It, the third iteration of our conference series and this year, in association with CAPP, we are seeking to create a different type of ‘conference’ experience.

When and where is this happening?

Tuesday 17th April 2018, Town Hall, St Helens, UK 9.30am-9:30pm

Wednesday 18th April 2018, Tate Liverpool, UK 9.30am-1pm (Afternoon activities will continue at Tate Liverpool until 5pm and full details can be found below)

What do we want to have happen?

We want participants (who would normally be understood as conference delegates) to collectively create, serve, and eat a meal. We want to use this collective task as the basis of a shared discussion that addresses the issues we are concerned with: of documentation, knowledge sharing, building a lexicon, building an archive, supporting artists and workers. We want to collectively publish a document within the timeframe of the gathering.

Our collective task is:

To produce a dinner course, present it in a meaningful way; document the process and the event; contribute to discussion; submit a page for publication.

A support structure will be in place to help you realise the contribution you want to make. No pre-conference preparation is necessary. All your experience is useful.

Why are we doing this?

We want participants at this gathering to have a collective experience in space and time. We want to embody the values we expound. We want to reflect on a common task.

We wish to symbolically and actively ‘enact’ the principles we seek to discuss, to work together bringing different experiences and perspectives together through artistic endeavour.

Participants will explore the principles of collaboration through doing, and over the course of a day forge relationships, making a meal and creating meaning in the process. We will reflect on the experience we have embarked on together as a way to explore some of the urgent questions we encounter in our work. We will share the knowledge we uncover with the wider sector.


While a large number of conference places have been allocated to our Collaborative Arts Partnership Programme partners, Heart of Glass is delighted to be able to offer a limited number of places through OPEN CALL. Anyone interested in collaborative and social arts practice, or with experience of participating in the development or realisation of a collaborative project, is invited to apply. The conference is free to attend. 

Those wishing to apply should send the following information to info@heartofglass.org.uk, no later than 5pm on Wednesday 28th March 2018:

  • Name & contact details
  • Short biography (up to 250 words)
  • A short statement describing in what ways the opportunity to attend the conference will benefit your artistic and professional development (up to 350 words)

Please note a number of conference bursaries (up to £100 per individual) are available for artists and independent producers & curators to contribute towards travel, accommodation, subsistence, childcare and/or access costs. Priority will be given to those who would otherwise be unable to attend. Those wishing to apply should include (alongside the information outlined above), the following information:

  • Amount applied for (up to £100)
  • Brief explanation (2 – 3 sentences) of how the bursary will support attendance

All applicants will be notified week commencing 2nd April 2018.


For travel and accommodation information, please see our information document






Heart of Glass is a collaborative arts commissioning agency based in St Helens, Merseyside. Founded in 2014 by an initial investment of £1.5 million from Arts Council England through the Creative People and Places programme, we established as an independent entity in 2016.

Our programme is rooted in collaborative and social arts practice and embodies the principle of partnership. Our core value, philosophy and approach are founded on co-production with the community and the active participation of the collaborator, non-artist, audience and viewer, in the creation of ‘Great Art’. People both individually and within communities of place and interest, are central to both our thinking and our practice.

We support artists and communities to collaborate and realise ambitious contemporary artwork that reflects and responds to the politics of our times. We work across context and across art form.  Through our projects and initiatives, we create a space for dialogue, research and experimentation, placing art in direct interaction with all areas of life that form society.

All aspects of our work are informed by issues of difference and diversity, and our work is made with, of and for every community in which we work.

We have chosen to build our organisation and commissioning ethos around these philosophies. The politics of our times have presented us with an unprecedented moment of re-evaluation. Our communities, our values, our social structures are in flux due to a number of converging agendas. Collaborative art presents the opportunity to engage meaningfully with these agendas and draw audiences into work in new and exciting ways, allowing many to add their voices to commentary on these times.

We want St Helens to be a home for thought and practice and at the same time, to be part of an international conversation, leading, experimenting and convening discussion around the role of art and artists in our changing world. In many ways St Helens is every place, it is home to multiple and diverse communities of place and interest, with a strong sense of heritage and ambitions for the future. There are also marginalised, silenced, misunderstood, dominant, and niche communities, and we are committed to working with this diverse range of voices, supporting collaborations with artists from across all art forms to make ambitious new work that shakes, challenges and unearths.

We are interested in building communities of enquiry, in sharing skills and experience, and in placing art in direct interaction with all areas of life that form society. As we move forward, we will continue to work in partnership, we will build links, we will have reach and impact. We will question who gets to make art and where it gets made.


WITH FOR ABOUT formally closes at 1pm on April 18th and then you are invited to stay with us for an afternoon of activities at Tate Liverpool, as outlined below:

2.00pm – 4.00pm

You are invited to A Conversation on Place-making, as part of Engaging Places: Collaborative Praxis in Art and Architecture at Tate Exchange, presenting six leading Irish practitioners in the area of collaborative art and architecture. The practitioners are; artist Michelle Browne, curators Rosie Lynch and Eilís Lavelle from Callan Workhouse Union, artist / architect Blaithin Quinn, and architects Emmett Scanlon and Laurence Lord from Out.Post.Office. Their practices examine how socially engaged art and architectural practices critically engage in questions of spatial justice and influence how we create a sense of place and community in the built environment.

On Wednesday 18th Tate Exchange will host an informal conversation on the theme of ‘place-making’. This is part of a programme of activities across that week including open studio sessions, discussions and workshops, as a way of initiating further creative works. The practitioners will also be part of With For About: Making a Meal of It. Engaging Places: Collaborative Praxis in Art and Architecture is supported by Culture Ireland’s GB18: Promoting Irish Arts in Britain programme.

4.00pm- 5.00pm

An opportunity meet Brazilian Collective Opavivara! and discuss their practice as they begin to install their show Utupya  (April 27 – June 24)  in the fourth floor gallery at Tate Liverpool.



Tate Liverpool

27 April – 24 June 2018

Tate Liverpool is preparing a major new project with the Brazilian collective Opavivará for spring 2018, the collective’s first solo exhibition in a UK institution. Founded in 2005 in Rio de Janiero, Opavivará is an art collective who work together to develop actions and projects that provide collective experiences and change the way we understand public space. In their interventions, Opavivará are interested in bringing domestic environments and behaviours into the public domain. Echoing the ambition for active participation of pioneering Brazilian artists such as Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980), their projects aim not just for participants to interact with the work, but to be fundamental agents of the execution of the work itself.

For Tate Liverpool, Opavivará extend and develop their ongoing project ‘Utupya’, which conceives environments and situations to reflect on the hybrid, mixed nature of contemporary culture. A key touchstone is the 1928 Cannibalist Manifesto of the Brazilian poet and polemicist Oswald de Andrade 1890–1954), a text that asserts that a key aspect of Brazil’s history is its ‘cannibalising’ other cultures. Opavivará are interested in the evolution of hybrid cultures and in celebrating the potential that arrives when people from different cultural backgrounds come together. For them, the Brazilian Tupi or Tupy tribe are an emblem of cultural admixture and interweaving.

In the gallery, Opavivará will create a series of immersive environments, drawing on hybrid elements of Brazilian indigenous tradition and contemporary culture. Repurposing or converting pre-existing everyday objects, they adapt them to new social functions in an ad-hoc manner. In Rede Social, they create a multi-part hammock, a ‘social network’ that invites negotiation and cooperation between participants, accompanied by the sounds of traditional chocalho rattles. In Pajémirim, they invite visitors to concoct and share tea using medicinal herbs grown in Liverpool. In the central gallery space, Opavivará fuse ancient Brazilian dance rituals with contemporary music, creating an interactive sound system and inviting visitors to wear different sensorial props amongst a forest of traditionally inspired parasols.

Visitors get first glimpse of stunning new art installation

More than 200 guests packed into The World of Glass on Thursday (January 25th) for the launch of Where Things Are Different.

The evening, included live entertainment from Theremin player Lydia Kavina, Eggs Collective and speeches.

Guests then headed outdoor to see the work after hearing the stories behind the public art installation. Artist and photographer Stephen King thanked the participants for their stories and being part of the incredible images that are now situated on the bank of The Sankey Canal.

The six lightboxes can be seen until April 22nd, behind The World of Glass Museum, they are lit from 3-9pm each day.

Patrick Fox, Director of Heart of Glass, said: “We are delighted with the response to the work so far, we’ve had lots of positive feedback and comments. The launch night felt like a really special start to the year, and we’d like to thank those that came out for their support. We are excited to develop this year with our partners, artists and communities, and celebrate St Helens past, present and future.

Your guide to the big launch in St Helens


This Thursday (January 25th) sees the launch of Where Things Are Different at The World of Glass.

We are delighted to see more than 200 tickets have already been snapped up, here is a quick guide to the evening:

The event starts at 5.30pm, food and drink is provided, although will be limited. Don’t panic if you are running late or can’t make the start time, we will of course still see you at the welcome desk when you arrive.

The World of Glass has limited free on-site parking for visitors but in the event that this is full, there is a multi-storey car park (Chalon Way) immediately next to the Centre with very reasonable charges (please note this closes promptly at 7pm).

There will be entertainment and brief speeches throughout before the unveiling of the lightboxes. Please consider wearing footwear suitable to be both indoors and outdoors.

Eggs Collective will interact ad-hoc with guests, theremin player Lydia Kavina will perform, as well as Haydock Brass Band. There will also be speeches about the project and #StHelens150.

For this event, the speeches at 6pm will be British Sign Language interpreted. Please ask a member of staff for more information. If you need any assistance accessing the artworks outside, or with the lift, please inform a member of staff at the front desk.

The World of Glass has been designed to include everyone and has wheelchair access to all galleries, lifts to all floors, low-mounted video displays and adapted toilet facilities.

Trains run regularly from Liverpool Lime Street and Wigan North Western into St Helens Central Railway Station – just 5 minute’s walk from The World of Glass.

For detailed public transport information call Traveline on 0871 200 22 33 or log on to www.merseytravel.gov.uk

Postcode for SatNav: WA10 1BX

International Theremin performer heads to St Helens



People in St Helens will get the chance to see a world class performer showcase her skills on a truly unique musical instrument – as Lydia Kavina plucks notes from thin air.

The launch event of Where Things Are Different at The World of Glass on Thursday, January 25th, includes a unique performance on the Theremin.

Kavina plays the instrument and also composes work. The Theremin is an electronic musical instrument invented in the 1920s by Russian musician and engineer Leon Theremin. It is controlled without physical contact the performer.

The instruments controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas that sense the relative position of the player’s hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand and amplitude with the other. The electric signals from the Theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.

Kavina, who was born in Moscow and currently lives in Oxfordshire, plays the instrument and also composes work.

Tickets for the launch are available online now

Where Things Are Different – “It’s been great, hilarious, disturbing, sad and uplifting.”

A new public art installation opens in St Helens later this month (January).

Where Things Are Different is a project that attempts to place equal credence between the logic of fiction and the logic of fact within the context of community.

Photographer Stephen King has met and worked closely with members and groups of St Helens post-industrial communities to unearth the shared experience that resides within these displaced workforces.

King attempts to illustrate overlapping anecdotal fragments from close-knit St Helens communities and the tall-tales that emanate from the shop-floor. Focusing upon the experiences that aren’t documented in the form of books or curated in museums, but ones that only exist upon the lips of the people.

The project’s launch is at the World of Glass on Thursday, January 25 5.30pm to 7.30pm. Tickets are available here

We spoke to Stephen about the project and how a nice cup of tea and a sit down has led to some magical story telling and a set of unique images.

Where did the idea behind the project come from?

It came about quite naturally really, I wanted to undertake a collaborative project in St Helens and obviously there are many issues that I could look at in the borough, but the more I thought about what was the one thing that draws together differing communities. That was the towns workforces

How have you enjoyed meeting people and hearing their tales?

It’s been great, it’s been hilarious, it’s been disturbing, it’s been sad and it’s been uplifting.

The groups and individuals I have met and chatted with have just been so open and supportive of the project and have shared everything from workplace banter to sensitive family experiences. There was a lot of tea and biscuits put away!

I’ve had great support throughout the project from people just giving me a little time to talk, to people donating props. People have been coming back time after time to help with the shoots and taking part in performing in some of the representations.

How does the process work, from meeting people for the first time to the final artwork?

The whole bedrock of the process is the initial chat. Generally, in groups of 5-10 we sit around drinking tea and begin a conversation.

From there it usually just runs by itself and the stories and memories begin to get fired around. The conversations are recorded and then transcribed into a text. In this form, it’s quite simple to get a birds-eye-view of reoccurring themes and issues to focus upon.

It was always the idea that the text can be edited into a collection of anecdotes that the participants could have at a later date.

Is the work based on historical fact?

I’m sure that some are historically factual, but I’m also sure that the foundations of some are built on sand.

That is the nature of an anecdote, its usually passed on. These tales from the shop-floor, or of childhood are generally remembered and retold through a filter dependant on where or who its being told to.

The fact that a story is being told and shared is enough for me, it has already created a new space of its own.

How will the work be presented to the public?

The photographs will be large scale lightboxes situated behind The World of Glass Museum, they will be lit 3-9pm each day until April 22nd.

It was important that we secured this location, it’s historical and industrial relevance. It is a location steeped in folklore in the form of tropical fish!

Who will the work be for?

The work is for everyone who has any connection in any way to St Helens or anyone who enjoys storytelling, the images are not direct depictions of events or happenings but hopefully just constructed spaces where you can reflect and maybe expand upon threads of fact and fiction and it doesn’t matter.

Grants for The Arts Clinic

A Grants for The Arts Funding Clinic takes place in St Helens on Wednesday, July 5th.

This session is ideal for artists, creatives, producers, and organisations in the borough.

Grants for the Arts is Arts Council England’s open access funding programme for individuals, art organisations and other people who use the arts in their work. They offer awards from £1000 to £100,000 to support a wide variety of arts-related activities, from dance to visual arts, literature to theatre, music to combined arts.

We will be joined Anna Hassan (Relationship Manager – Engagement & Audience) and Angela Chappell (Relationship Manager – Combined Arts), who will provide information about the scheme and how to apply, offering valuable advice and answering any questions you might have. Information about one-to-one surgery sessions will follow soon.

Click here to book